A new strain of SARS-CoV-2 has been identified in the United Kingdom. What does the new strain of the virus mean for a world anxious to recover? Marjiya Baktyer reports.
Here is everything you need to know:
- Viruses mutate all the time. Seasonal influenza evolves every year, which is usually accompanied by an updated vaccine jab.
- Therefore, it hardly came as a surprise when a new variant of the pandemic SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus began spreading rapidly in the United Kingdom and causing intense concerns within its European neighbors prompting shutdowns of transport links.
- Referred to by some experts as the B.1.1.7 lineage, this new strain is not the first new variant of the pandemic virus to emerge.
- The point of concern is the 70 percent transmission rate of the newly discovered strain.
- Twenty-three letters of the viral genetic code had changed, of which 17 could alter the behavior of the virus.
- Scientists were surprised to find far more mutations than in any previous variant of the Sars-Cov-2 virus analyzed since the pandemic started.
- The findings included several mutations on the key “spike protein” that it uses to enter human cells.
- The broad symptoms of the new strain are the same – high temperature, persistent dry cough, and a loss or change in taste and smell.
- The new Covid-19 variant has been identified in Denmark with nine cases, Australia recording two, and Italy, the Netherlands, and Iceland marking one each.
- However, a sliver of hope comes in experts reassuring that the vaccines completing trials and beginning mass inoculation programs — from Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford/AstraZeneca — achieve protection by training the recipient’s immune system to recognize many different sites on the viral spike protein.
This comes as a welcome respite to a pandemic ridden world hoping to catch a breath.